Monday, March 9, 2015

So, I Ordered This Coverlet...

The coverlet on our bed was shrinking. I loved it; it was beautiful, but every time I washed it it  shrank some more until it ventured only timidly over the sides and foot of the bed. Weighed on both the aesthetic and practicality scales it was found more and more wanting.

So for the last 6 months I have been keeping my eyes open for another coverlet that I liked and a week and a half ago, I found one and ordered it. It was white. I recently read a study which showed that people sleep better under white bedding. Our last coverlet was ecru, so we should be sleeping a shade better.

I ordered it Wednesday or Thursday. It would be shipped Tuesday. On Tuesday morning I stripped the mattress pad and sheets and pillowcases off our bed and washed them and dried them and ironed them and made up the bed, minus the diminutive old coverlet, in happy anticipation of my arriving new coverlet and pillow shams. You can't put a new coverlet on unwashed sheets.

It was all fresh and beautiful. And waiting.

But the package did not come. I went and double checked the order. OoooHH! It was suppose to SHIP on Tuesday. Not be delivered. It was suppose to be delivered on FRIDAY. Why it would take them from Thursday to Tuesday to ship it I do not know, but I'm sure they do, and I'm sure they had a very good reason!!

 Friday wasn't all that far away. I could wait.

Friday came. I don't usually wash my sheets more than once a week but you cannot put a fresh new coverlet and shams on slightly dirty sheets. I stripped the sheets off the bed again with undampened spirits. Washed them, ironed them, made up the bed once more, and kept my ear cocked for the delivery man.

Afternoon gave way to evening, and evening faded to night. And nobody came. I had checked the order before I took the sheets off the bed. It said "Order status: In transit, on time". I guess on time means different things to different people.

I really kinda like to get a bed looking pretty. I find a good deal of satisfaction in pressing the pillowcases, and perching them just so on top of smooth sheets. I like sliding between crisp sweet smelling sheets at night. But I didn't just LOVE it. I mean, not quite that much.

When the Chief came home he did some better investigating than I knew how to do and it said the package was in Hodgkins, Ill ...."Severe weather conditions have delayed delivery. / We’re working to deliver your package as soon as possible."
At least it was in the country. At least it was not we who were having severe weather. At least I had not cut up the old coverlet into rags.
We went to bed that night breathing in the springy freshness of clean, ironed sheets, "too blessed to be depressed."

(Don't you adore cheesy platitudes?? They come in so handy when all else fails.)

Over the weekend the package made it to Atlanta! At least it was in the state.
This morning I checked and it was in our town!! "Out for delivery". WOOT!

I cranked up the washing machine and jerked the sheets off the bed, thwumped the pillows out of their cases and stuffed it all in the washer with the rest of the white stuff.
My package was "out for delivery!!"
I called the Chief. "You will never believe what I'm doing!!" I said. "I'm washing sheets!" He laughed, but he didn't sound in the least bit disbelieving.

Then I set up the ironing board. Got my trusty Magic Sizing. Put water in the iron. plugged it in...and started ironing.

And this afternoon right after I got home from retrieving the natives from school, the dogs set up a howl. This could only mean one thing. My package had arrived! I opened it with great joy and went to start my iron again. One of the natives, who had just been eating Cheetos, helped unfold it. "Watch out" said another snack eating native, "you're getting cheesy stuff on the cover!"

"I washed my hands" he said limply, looking at the damage. And he spoke the truth. It was wet cheesy stuff. There was some on the sheets too.

I got a white cloth and scrubbed at it, trying to decided just how obsessive to be. Should I launder them before I even put them on the bed? They probably had factory germs after all.

But the orange stuff came off  with only a little effort, so I quit trying to decide, I just ironed it all and put it on the bed, like the sensible person I am.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On Societies and Cultures Large and Small

NOTICE: The first half and the last half of this blog were written months apart. MONTHS.
You see, I wasn't done writing it when the Chief came home so he played me a game of Settlers of Catan in good faith. Slightly misplaced faith, alas.
But here it is, Chief of mine. Thank you for your contributions to our native micro-culture.
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The Chief said if I would write a blog this afternoon while he was gone he would play Settlers of Catan with me later. Shameless arm-twisting.

"I can't just do that." I said. "I have to have something to write about. I don't have anything to write about."

"I know you." he replied. "You can write about nothing."

This was suppose to encourage me, I think. 

Every time I write I am under the impression I am writing about something, but apparently it does not seem so from his perspective.

Since I really want to play Settlers of Catan when he gets home I am going to write this afternoon and whether I write about something or nothing, you can decide.

To me it is a rather fascinating something.

It is culture. Or society.

Society I guess, is responsible for the resulting culture. And it is blamed for all sorts of ills, crimes, sins, and unhealthy behavior patterns.
When somebody behaves poorly it is quite common for them or the people who love them to blame it on society or the prevailing culture.
Entire blocks of people are regularly given a nearly blanket behavioral pass because society has, after all, made them what they are and they are merely products of the culture in which they find themselves.

This is convenient. Society, after all, cannot defend herself, making her a very meek scapegoat, barely bleating as her throat is slit and she is sacrificed in stead of the actual perpetrator of evil.

But it does have the effect of making the individuals who make up society, no matter how virtuous or exemplary those individuals might be, feel vaguely guilty. Or resentful. Perhaps both, and without recourse for shedding that guilt, having after all, so small an influence on society at large as to render him virtually powerless to shape it into something other than what it is.

The reality of the matter is that we are all going to be responsible for our own actions when we eventually stand before God. We are going to own our actions then. We would do well to own them now.

Who we are is not, in reality, the result of our culture. It is our contribution to the culture.

Well, who we are might be a result of our culture. It will in fact be unless we make intentional choices to buck it. But we can do that. We as creatures of choice have the power, and the responsibility to examine both the influence of our culture on us and the influence we have on our culture.

But I have at times considered how little influence the average person has on the greater culture in which he lives. There are some people who have, from positions of influence or fame, significantly shaped a given society's culture. But most of us will live and die without causing a perceptible blip on the cultural radar of our given society.

But underneath the umbrella of greater society are lesser societies. Subcultures. These may be formed by a common faith or religion, country of origin, regional location.  We are all part of one or more.

 It is possible often to wield more influence there, depending on our position and disposition, but likely we still hold very limited sway.

But then there are micro-cultures. And that's what I really wanted to talk about all along.
I LOVE to observe micro-cultures. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Appreciate their diversity. Their splendid palate of color! They come in such a delightful bouquet of varieties.

Work-places, college campuses, churches, Bible Schools, clubs...and tada! families.

What I really, really wanted to talk about all this time was families.

In these micro-environments we wield quite a bit of influence. Our conduct, attitudes, speech, character, personality and habits contribute significantly to these environments and help make them what they are. If we stir up dust the whole atmosphere is dusty. If  we sing, the whole atmosphere is splashed with music.

We've all heard the line "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
There is a lot of truth to that. But it is not limited to mama. If papa's upset everyone else is on edge. If  the teenagers are sullen and bitter, there's a blanket over the whole house. If the toddler throws tantrums when he's crossed, nobody's happy either, especially not the toddler, though a lot of other people are probably pretending to be to keep the sun shining in his world at all times.

I have for many years enjoyed analyzing families that to me seem really neat. It's intriguing to me how vastly they may differ from one another. In one there may be incredible structure and precision. Their house is always neat. Their lawn is groomed. There are no empty cups and receipts and used tissues in their vehicles. But still there is a warmth and love.

Another may have more in common with a fireworks display, great colorful eruptions, punctuated with lots of noise. There are families where strains of music played on fine instruments waft through the rooms at any given time during the day. And families where each one is silently curled in his own corner, reading.

There are families whose best love is inviting others and socializing over food.
And families whose best love is to just be together.
There are families  who sit at the supper table and discuss all the community news they've gleaned throughout the day.
And families who would much prefer to debate the latest mental morsel on the table.

But there are always some things in common, in really neat families. Love, being one of them. An atmosphere of kindness and respect, and unselfishness. A love for God and a general attitude of appreciation. And a sense of humor.

In my own family I am only one factor. I only contribute one person's-worth. But unlike in the culture at large, where I may feel powerless to exact change, my contributions shapes my micro-culture significantly. So how am I shaping it?

My industry or sloth not only shapes my physical environment, it shapes the emotional environment as well. It also shapes the habits of my children.
If the house is a wreck at the end of the day, the influence of that is felt keenly by all of us in this micro-culture. But it is felt just as keenly if everything is clean, the beds are made, there are bouquets in the windowsills and candles lit on the tables.

I have noticed many times how much better I feel if I am dressed neatly and my hair is clean and combed. If I scuff around in my robe with uncombed hair, my productivity plunges, my attitude plunges, my self-image plunges.  It's a rock dropped in my micro-culture with ripples that never end. Because of this, I do not often venture to begin the day till I am dressed and combed. I also look in the mirror first thing and grin at the lady in the mirror. Something about it makes me laugh, and it awakens the happies inside of me. This puts me in a frame of mind to favorably impact my micro-culture.

And whether or not I sit and read my Bible and pray. That impacts it as well. There is no one more difficult to live with than a person who is not at peace with his God. And himself. You can't have the latter without the former. Or at least I have never found the way. People who are not at peace with God and themselves are generally selfish, critical, and moody....or they can be at a moment's notice.
I do not know why it is such a temptation to neglect my relationship with my God, when maintaining it is the best thing in the whole wide world. Every time. Not once have I ever invested in my relationship with God and come away thinking, "Well, that was time and energy blown." And in turn, my relationship or lack there-of with the Almighty effects my micro-culture hugely.

There are a thousand other ways I make a major impact on my micro-culture. Do I laugh, or do I find nothing funny? Am I the sort of person to make a point of not being amused if, say, my children's teacher plans "funny hair day" and I cringe to see them going out with one ponytail and one braid, because after all, the Bible says "all things should be done decently and in order?" We are all different. We find delight in different things. Can we delight in what someone else delights in? Or not? Our response shapes our culture. It makes it what it is.

A spirit of criticism and micro management paralyzes a micro-culture. It doesn't take a genius to spot flaws in people. We all have them. Flaws are everywhere. But a healthy culture flourishes in an atmosphere of grace. In a micro-culture we can bathe the atmosphere in grace. We have that privilege. We have the power to create a flourishing, lush micro-culture. Because even though the other tribesman in the wig-wam are lacking in grace, and are abundant in flaws, we have the prerogative to remember our own flaws and extend grace.

And grace begets grace.
Just like singing begets singing.
And love begets love.
And industry begets industry.
Laughter begets laughter.
Joy begets joy.
Kindness begets kindness.
Righteousness inspires righteousness.

In a micro-culture it does. And you may think that your impact on the world at large is negligible, and perhaps it is. Now. But if you will look back a generation or two, perhaps you will get a bit of a vision for the impact one micro-culture has on the present culture. Think how many micro-cultures your parents' or grandparents' micro-culture currently influences. Whether it was healthy or unhealthy, the influence of the micro-culture you were raised in is a powerful force in your life that will either work for you or against you all the days of your life. I know each of my siblings  have been significantly impacted by the culture our parents created for us. And in turn the grandchildren's sub-cultures have been as well. In the end, our influence, though seemingly small today has potential to one day pack a significant punch.

The truth is, society at large... our culture at large... is the reflection of  the micro-cultures within it.

And I maintain that the culture at large is, sadly, a reflection of a generation, or maybe two, of parents who lost sight of the value of tenderly tending their micro-cultures in exchange for other pursuits, and have turned the daily maintenance of their respective natives over to others who have no vested interest in the heart and soul and character of the little ones in their charge.

Because in the end the hand that rocks the cradle does indeed rule the world.
Or tomorrow's world, rather.